Firefox 3.1 Beta3 – First impressions

firefox31b3 Mozilla developers march on in their quest to dethrone Internet Explorer from its perch by releasing Firefox 3.1 Beta 3. There’s been slight confusion amongst the online community what with Mozilla announcing a change in naming convention 3.1 → 3.5. Meaning the final release will be termed Firefox 3.5.

There are developments that matter to the end-user in this release – both cosmetic as well as core features that improve the average person’s browsing experience.

Performance

A marked improvement in browsing and rendering speed as compared to the 3.0.x versions, although truth be told, Google’s Chrome still feels slightly faster. This due, in part to an improved Gecko rendering engine and of course, TraceMonkey which has been enabled by default since Beta2. Expect AJAX based sites (read most Web2.0 sites) to be faster.

Native support for JSON has been included and that will ease the task of loading data to web applications.

I personally also saw a marked improvment in RAM usage especially with a number of non-static pages/sites loaded. This, I’m sure will be substantiated thru more professional tests and hopefully will improve with future releases.

Interface

The new tab button is now placed next to the last tab instead of the far right of the tab bar, making it more discoverable. The whole emphasis has been shifted to present Firefox as a tabbed browser. Tabbed browsing or single window mode is now enabled by default. One can also tear tabs off the tab bar to create new windows, and drag and drop them from one Firefox window to another.

The much talked about Private Browsing Mode works very well indeed and can be toggled either via an entry in the TOOLS menu. Privacy mode is then engaged until you manually turn it off thru the menu or until the browser is closed.

privatemode

Awesome Bar keyword filters

A new feature is also the ability to filter what is displayed in the Firefox location bar (aka Awesome Bar) by including special characters:

One can restrict the search to one’s history by typing “^”, or bookmarks with “*”, or tagged pages with “+”. To make what you’ve typed match only in the URL type “@”, and for title/tags only use “#”.

More details & screengrabs at Edward Lee’s post.

Native Ogg A/V playback

This latest BETA can also now natively play OGG audio and video citing support for HTML5′s <video> element – so no need for external plugins or media players for this OpenSource format.

Sample video here.

VERDICT: If you’re a geek and/or a FirefoxFan, go get it. It’s not ready for mainstream release yet – the lack of compatible extensions et al is one more reason to stick to 3.0.x, but if you’re looking for faster performance and less memeory usage, I say go for it.

You can get Firefox 3.1 Beta 3, available for Linux, Windows and Mac, in 64 languages, from the Firefox beta download page.

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